Published: Wednesday 26th of September 2012
With the mounting interest around Prince William and Prince Harry, visitors seeking things to do in London may want to know more about the royal's childhood. One way in which to investigate this is to pay a visit to Eton College – their alma mater. While the princes were at Eton they were afforded a certain level of privacy, meaning that it was difficult for outsiders to see within the privileged world of the public school. However, the institution now opens its gates to visitors, enabling them to tour the ancient boarding school.
While Eton educated the modern princes, its connection with royalty reaches much further back, as it was King Henry VI who originally founded the institution in 1440. Back then it was known as The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor.
Despite the fact that it was originally founded as a charity school to give poor boys the chance of a fantastic education, before they went on to King's College at Cambridge, which was also founded by the same king in 1441, of late it is better known for educating the privileged. As such, Conservative leader David Cameron marks the 19th Prime Minister to have walked the school's halls.
After a charitable start, the school was deposed by Edward IV in 1461, with the king annulling all the instutute's grants and taking its assets and treasures, including a number of religious relics, to St George's Chapel in Windsor. It is believed that the sovereign's mistress, Jane Shore, argued on behalf of the school and managed to save some of it.
Nowadays, visitors can explore this historic school, which carries many of its old traditions to this day.
One highlight of a visit to Eton is the School Yard, which lies at the heart of the most ancient of the school's buildings. The Lower School, which is situated on the north side, is the first classroom to be built and is still in use today, as is the College, where the Foundation Scholars have always been housed since the origins of the school. On the west side is the Upper School, which had to be built in the 17th century when the Lower School became too small.
If visitors look to the south side, they will see the historic College Chapel, built in 1441. The founding king wanted it to be the longest chapel in Europe, but due to the fact that Edward IV usurped the throne and cut off most of the school's revenue, these designs were never to be fully realised. The chapel that stands today, therefore, was originally intended to be only the choir of a much larger church.
Architecture fans will be delighted by the Antechapel, which is described as "a fine example of fifteenth century Perpendicular Gothic architecture and is basically very simple - a single unit of strikingly satisfactory proportions", by the school. What's more, the medieval wall paintings that still hang are among the most remarkable in Northern Europe, and the stained glass windows in the east end are also well worth a look.
The Cloisters, the College Hall, which was the original dining hall, and the College Library are other popular spots on the tour.
The Museum of Eton Life, meanwhile, gives guests a glimpse into the life and history of Eton since it was founded. More than 400 exhibits illustrate the life and history of its boys, including memorabilia from the reign of Dr Keate, including his tricorn hat, birches and swishing block. The recreation of a boy's room as it might have been in 1900 and a video of contemporary life at the school are also available to explore.
Visitors can pay a visit to the gift shop as well, to take something home with them to remember their trip by.
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